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Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt Opens Exhibition A Slightly Curving Place

HKW reopens with an exhibition and digital discourse program exploring what it means to listen to the past, July 23–September 20, 2020.

Padmini Chettur, study for A Slightly Curving Place, 2020 | Image: Sara

What does it mean to try and listen to the past? To ask this question draws awareness to sound as a social event — music, theater, and dance as forms of lived collectivity — and to its absence. Such listening is to confront a sense that the past cannot be captured. It is about that which is lost but nevertheless always with us — the simultaneity of the past in the present, a collectivity across time beyond possession and accumulation.

A Slightly Curving Place derives its title from a Prakrit phrase in Jain cosmology: “Isipabbarabhumi” refers to a special place above the heavens shaped like a parasol where the disembodied souls of the perfected ones go to live in eternal isolation. Sealed off from the rest of the cosmos, they are unable to interact with other souls, unable to hear them or be heard.

In this exhibition, a slightly curving place is to be found not at the apex of the universe but under an ambisonic dome of speakers. Here, an audience of listeners might gather to sense a past they cannot hear. The sound that arrives is a record of sound as it was. Elsewhere, on projection screens, the body of a dancer rotates in one direction as it makes an image of time that turns in another.

Centered around a multi-authored audio play, the exhibition brings together writers, dancers, field recordists and sound designers. It responds to Umashankar Manthravadi, a self-taught acoustic archaeologist who has been building ambisonic microphones to map and measure the acoustic properties of premodern sites of ritual and festival. He proposes that we can’t just look for theaters in landscapes of the past, we must listen for them.

Curated by Nida Ghouse

Coming to Know: digital discourse program: September 5, 11, and 18, 2020

For further information visit www.hkw.de/en/curvingplace.